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Going through the daily news I stumbled on the latest United Nations Population Fund {UNPF} report on Nigeria’s population and it read “Nigeria’s population is now 201 million, the largest in Africa, while its immediate neighbours – Benin Republic, Niger, Chad and Cameroon – are 11.8 million, 23.2 million, 15.8 million and 25.3 million people, respectively.” The report also stated that our population has increased by 2.6% from 2010-2019, at this point I began to worry for our country and especially the economy.

With a population growth rate of 2.6% and a GDP growth rate of 1.9%, it means that in Nigeria our population is growing faster than our economy can accommodate. At the current population growth rate it is estimated that by 2050 Nigeria will be the third most populous country in the world with a population of about 400 million people. The pertinent question now is – how do we plan to cater for our fast growing population?

The answer is quite simple – we have to diversify our economic base and look for more viable and sustainable drivers of the economy other than crude oil. There is an urgent need for diversification of the Nigerian economy from its present crude oil–dependent system. Other sectors of the economy, such as agriculture, manufacturing and of course technology should be given an opportunity to thrive and support revenue from petroleum, especially now that the price of oil is nose-diving.

Prior to the discovery of crude oil in Nigeria, agriculture was the major source of our foreign exchange earnings through the exportation of cash crops such as rubber from Delta State in south-south region; groundnut, hide, and skin produced by the northern region; cocoa and coffee from the western region; and palm oil and kernels from the eastern region of the country.
Agriculture currently accounts for 70% of employment in Nigeria, but Nigerians still spend billions of dollars on food imports, which is a huge source of revenue forfeited by our local farmers to foreign farmers and food companies. One of the reasons for the shortfall is that Nigeria has 84 million hectares of land suitable for farming, but less than half of this area is cultivated —and most of the farming is accomplished with inefficient, outdated methods and without basic inputs.

Irrigation, which is becoming more important as climate change disrupts rainfall patterns across the country, is available on only 220,000 hectares, when there are enough water resources in the country to supply three million hectares. Despite our poor investment in agriculture {less than10% of our national expenditure} the agricultural industry still contributes about 21% to our annual GDP. This goes further to show the huge potential in the industry.

In a deliberate attempt geared at finding solutions to our ailing agricultural industry I came across a number of entrepreneurs and companies doing exceptionally well to change the narrative of the agricultural industry in Nigeria and amongst them I found those tagged as “AGRITECH” most fascinating and I’ll tell you why. These AGRITECH companies are involved in creating IT based solutions in making the agricultural sector most productive by minimizing waste, maximizing profits, providing relevant skills and equipment’s to farmers and also bringing out the “cool” side of agriculture.
These Agritech companies are renewing hope in the agricultural sector, they are working hard to create an industry and also ensure the industry excels with very minimal support from governments and local investors. With agriculture being the highest employer of labor in Nigeria, it only makes sense that we birth and support more of these Agri-tech startups to achieve their fullest potentials. Here is an attempt to introduce you to a few of them.

We have FARM CROWDY which uses technology to connect farmers with people who have the funds. This capital is very critical for farmers in Nigeria. One, it’s tough to access funds. Two, farmers need it to purchase farm inputs and implements. Within a year of its existence, FarmCrowdy secured funding of $1m from venture capitalists and angel investors. Some of the investors were Cox Enterprises, Techstars Ventures, Social Capital, Hallett Capital and Right-Side Capital.
FARM AGRIC another indigenous company making ground breaking moves in the agri-tech world by building capacity of rural farmers, providing funds for farmers and also creating investment opportunities for the public with returns between 11-20% on investments.
There are also other agric-tech companies like GROWSEL and THRIVEAGRIC that are actively working on infusing technology into the agricultural value chain. They are making farmers of everyone by enabling people own and operate farms from the comfort of their homes with just their smartphones. If I had all day I could go on and on about these companies but due to our obvious limitations I’ll kerp it at these.

The advent of these Agri-tech companies have made it easy for people to engage in agribusiness with far less stress and liability.

However, another point of concern is the outright boycotting of the agricultural sector by young people. The average age of farmers in Nigeria today is between 55-60 and by 2030 will rise to between 75-80. With our population growth estimates the question is – what quantity and quality of food can these old and in most cases outdated farmers produce to match our population? What technical experience do they have to match the growing demands of our population?

The truth of the matter is undeniable that the answer lies in the hands of the young and vibrant Nigerian youths to take up the responsibility to ensure the growth and sustainability of the agricultural industry just like the likes of FARMCROWDY, FARMAGRIC, GROWSEL, THRIVE AGRIC etc.
I would also urge the government to support this industry by making positive policies that will drive growth of the Agri-tech industry and also ensure an enabling environment that will attract foreign and local investments. The future of the agricultural industry around the world would be driven by AGRI-TECH companies and Nigeria should not miss out on it.


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